Communication between men and women is one of the most important things in the world – perhaps the most important thing, since without it, none of us would be here! So why is it that so many of us, both women and men, find it so difficult? Perhaps it comes from a fundamental lack of understanding of how the communication styles of men and women differ.
Women communicate by sharing. They love to open up emotionally and communicate how they’re feeling, whether positive or negative. When women socialize with each other, they have an emotional free-for-all, in which they show appreciation for each other by listening to each other’s emotional outpours. Women instinctively understand that the most important thing to do when communicating with another woman is to show empathy for how she feels, to share her feelings with her.Men, however, love to fix things. They are hard-wired for solving problems. If confronted with something going wrong, they tend to obsess over it until they figure out how to make the problem go away. They are hardwired for doing things, not feeling things. In fact, since feeling things often gets in the way of doing things, men have been encouraged from a young age not to feel too much of anything. Therefore, men’s communication style is geared towards detail and “getting things done,” because this is how they prove their worth both as a mate and to other men.
So, what happens when men and women, who are generally coming from vastly different communication styles, try to have a conversation, let alone a relationship?
A fundamental disconnect happens. Here’s how it goes: let’s say John and Annie are a cohabitating couple and they’re discussing their relationship.
Annie, being an empathic communicator, starts to gush about her feelings about the relationship, without much self-censoring. She lets out her feelings and emotions, both positive and negative, expecting John simply to empathize. When she talks negatively, she may not be criticizing John directly, she is simply telling him how she feels.
John, who wants to be the perfect mate, is listening intently with one thing on his mind: whatever is going wrong for Annie, he wants to fix it, because he wants to do everything right for her. So what happens is that he fixates on the negative things that Annie says and immediately suggests ways to “fix the problem.”
Annie, however, didn’t want that. Annie just wanted John to empathize with the problem, not to try and fix it. So, in a rage, she blurts out: “You’re not listening to me!”
Now John is crestfallen, because, well, he actually was listening, and what’s more, he was trying to help, which apparently wasn’t appreciated. Communications break down – neither party has understood the other.
So, what just happened? Even though both people are trying their absolute best, the messages that have inadvertently been sent are that John doesn’t respect Annie’s emotions, and Annie doesn’t respect John’s ability to solve problems, both of which are crucial to their individual identities and senses of self-esteem.
If both John and Annie understood each other’s communication styles, they would each be able to stop mistaking each other’s words and actions for personal attacks. John could learn to listen patiently and empathize with Annie while she spoke, and Annie could learn to understand John’s non-emotionality as part of his identity, and instead of thinking that he is shut down to her, value and appreciate his offers of help or sharing of expertise as his way of showing love.
Just a little understanding and patience can go a long way in overcoming communication barriers.
How are you communicating with your partner?
11 thoughts on “How Can I Get Him to Listen?”
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Ahhh, communication, cant live without it.
We all, everyone, should evaluate what we say as if someone is saying it to us.
Remember, everyones reality is different from the next. Like fingerprints; no two are exactly alike.
Therefore with that said, all of the above are true. Males, females, men, women, spouse, significant other, partner; we all have different communication needs, styles, past experiences, etc. etc.. I dont think anyone brought up the psychosocial aspect of communication. In some cultures/social networks/environments, expressing ones feelings, desires, thoughts, are not acceptable. Hard to believe but very true and THAT is just one variable in the whole scheme of things.
I do know from personal experience, one must sort through individuals as some may communicate with ease and some may not. Some are much happier listening and some are cronic talkers. I tend to favor the latter, as is evident from my need to blog.
Many men are just not experienced in communicating their thought/feelings as well as women.
Men may first need to feel secure/trusting to open up verbalizing their thoughts/desires/feelings.
I must say I have learned sometimes the hard way what I can say and what I cant say.
Best to speak from the heart, respect the person being spoken to, and patience patience patience.
Dont assume if someone is not responding they dont have feeling, THEY DO! They may not have experience in verbalizing their thoughts.
Tread gently in the area of communication. Not everyone has the ability to verbalize with ease.
For those of us that cannot communicate verbally try the written word. I know a lot of men that can verbalize their thoughts via visually not verbally.
And always always always, talk to someone with respect and honor. Ye must think before ye speaks!
love and peace to all
Thanks for such a lovely article, Alys!
And thanks to everyone for sharing their personal experiences and wisdom!
It’s nice to recognize that, in general, men and women look, respond and communicate differently. And it’s good to remember we are all individuals with unique experiences, styles and ways of being and communicating.35y7
It’s all part of what makes Life and the Universe infinite!
this is relly nice, when I read it was “ah ok, thats why” I actually had that problem presently, don’t know how exactly i could explain my point to my husband without ending up fighting each other
Of course people communicate differently, and it isn’t just men and women. Both sexes can have trouble even understanding members of the same sex. I am a Virgo Moon therefore my communication is clear, consise, logical. Whereas my MALE lover is a Pisces Sun; sometimes I think I need a translator to help me understand his emotional outpourings. Let’s stop focusing on differences between the sexes. This often causes more problems than it solves.
Also, your article makes it sound as of women sit around talking about problems while men fix them. I think we all know otherwise……
I see these differences in communication in my callers. Not only do men and women communicate differently, their needs for communication are often different as well.
Many of my female clients express the need for daily communication and they often feel abandoned without it. They sometimes erroneously believe that if they haven’t heard from a man for an entire day that something is wrong with the relationship or that they have done something wrong.
This is not necessarily the case.
Often times, men simply don’t require as much communication time and so they see nothing wrong with skipping a day.
Actually, the break down occurs in how we listen. What we hear is often entirely different from what was said. Hence, when I communicate with others, and especially my husband, I will say things like “I know you said …, but this is what I heard. Is that what you meant?”
Also, when I talk to him and “share,” I will actually at times add things like “I know that what I just said came across as such and such,” or “I am pretty sure that the main piece you just heard was…, but this is what I meant.” It boils down to a few different points:
Be clear, concise and to the point
Know that our idea of sharing can come across as us putting our men down, because they tend to focus on the negative stuff within a conversation
Always clarify what you meant/heard
The worst thing in the world is when people assume, because …. 😀
Very thought provoke article, I agree what you had to share about communication, men are such fixers they take us communicating with them as them having to fix something, its in there make….
Blessings and Big Hugs!
Thanks for an excellent article that has one of the clearest explanations I have seen about the differences between male and female communication. Wonderful points on how not to let differences in communication appear to be personal attacks and and how healthy and helpful it can be to learn each other’s communication styles. I do agree that sometimes that’s really all the problem is-learning each other’s style of communication.
This article flat-out ROCKS!!!!!!
Communication is usually always plays a big part in any relationship problem.
Yes, the male thought process is much different than the female thought process for sure !!!!
Blessed Be )O(
Gina Rose ext.9500